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Frame a stud wall for true, straight walls

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Dear Pat: We are building a room addition to our house. A group of friends is going to help frame and raise the walls. What is the best way to raise them, and how do we take care of bowed wall studs? -- Suzanne C.

Dear Suzanne: It sounds as though you have already purchased the lumber and some of the studs are not true. Although there are stronger and more efficient building methods, almost anyone with minimal experience can build a stud wall.

The first step is to place the lumber indoors or at least under cover to protect it from rain. Give it several days to dry, and then sort it according to the straightness of each piece of lumber. You can still use the bowed piece, but you will have to make adjustments for them.

The primary problem bowed wall studs create occurs when you are trying to attach the drywall. A high point on a stud can cause a bulge that is apparent. A low point leaves a long unsupported span that can allow a drywall seam to open over time. A low point is easier to correct than a high point.

Once a section of the framing is completed, use a straightedge or stretch a string to find high and low points. The simplest way to correct a low point is to add shim stock on the side where the drywall will be attached. Space them a foot or two apart. This should provide enough support for the drywall.

Another method is to cut a notch, slightly deeper than the thickness of a 2x4 stud, in the back side of the bowed stud. Cut a short piece of stud long enough to fit between two adjacent studs.

Screw this piece horizontally in the notch. Nail each end into the adjacent studs such that the front surface of the bowed stud is pushed out level with the others. The same basic procedure can be used with a stud that is bowed out, but in reverse.

A 2x4 studded wall on 16-inch centers can be quite heavy and difficult to raise into position without a large crew or a crane. If it is not raised in a reasonably uniform method, it can be twisted and the lumber can actually be damaged and weakened.

The most difficult start is to tilt the wall up from the floor. Once it is above 45 degrees, it is easier to lift. Take several 2x4s, and toenail them to the subflooring. Nail small support plates to it every 18 inches or so. Starting at one end, lift the wall and let the header rest on a plate. Work your way along the wall for each step until it is high enough to raise.

Once the wall is up, you may want to adjust its position. One method is to build a couple of hinged support beams. These are simply made from 2x4 studs (scrap ones too bowed to use). A V-notch is cut into the end of one, and it is attached near the end of another one (lever) with a hinge.

Support the bottom end of the lever piece with a block nailed to the subflooring. Place the V-notch against the wall header. By pushing on the lever, the wall will easily move to get it perfectly vertical.

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